Changing a car tire nowadays! Should it be this hard?

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SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
Torque sticks are the industry standard, and I've never had any issues with them. Torque wrenches are totally acceptable for a home user. I like the torque stick for convenience. I also don't trust a torque wrench that doesn't have a dial on it, but really, we are talking about lug nuts. Realistically for most passenger cars 80-120 lb/ft of torque is fine and a harbor freight torque wrench would probably do just fine.
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,238
NE Ohio
Torque sticks are the industry standard,
For who? Not for a good tire shop.
My former BIL owns a large local tire shop, they have a place on the work order where the tech has to fill out the torque setting and initial it, for each wheel. (the proper factory torque spec is printed on the work order by the SM) They are required to use a torque stick on the air gun to run the nuts on, then the final torque is done by hand with a quality torque wrench that gets calibrated annually. They said this procedure has dropped their "hey my nuts are loose" calls to almost zero.
Torque wrenches are totally acceptable for a home user
And professionals too.
Realistically for most passenger cars 80-120 lb/ft of torque is fine
On many cars you put 120 lbs on the lug nuts, something is gonna break/strip/warp.
a harbor freight torque wrench would probably do just fine.
If your target is somewhere between 80 and 120 lbs, yup I agree. That loose of a range wouldn't cut it at any place I've ever worked.
 

coaly

Fisher Moderator
Staff member
Dec 22, 2007
4,565
NE PA
I took a few ASE certification courses and there is no rule about re-torqueing lugs every 100 miles. How would any service station be able to do that? The currently accepted practice is to use an impact gun with more torque output than required and use a torque limiting lug socket.



@Don2222 the system you showed is only somewhat similar to old knock off wheels. Nascar is simply joining in with many other racing disciplines with the central wheel nut style. You can even get that type of wheel mounting system on the most expensive Porsche 911 versions, but I don't think there are any other production cars that use a central wheel nut. Unless you have a pit crew and are racing the few seconds saved by using a central wheel nut do not make up for the crazy expense in using such a system. A single F1 wheel gun costs over $6,000 for a racing team. True knock-off wheels do not have the same aerospace engineering used on the current production central wheel nuts.
Recommended retorque is 50-100 km or 5-10 heat cycles. Mainly after a new wheel, or changing from summer to winter rims. Most tire dealers will do this for free after installing tires. It is more important when replacing lug nuts or lug bolts due to the seat angle being slightly different.

I find 3 out of 5 will stay correct and there may be 2 that will take another 1/8 turn. I don’t remember any ASE questions about it, I took all of them and was a Master Tech back when it was NIASE, for National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence. If you google “lug nut retorque”you’ll find Continental Tire recommends it as well as others. I’ve found when a wheel was ran loose, the taper of nuts hogs out the lug hole and they won’t tighten evenly. Those need to be retorqued a few times to get the seat in the softer alloy wheels back to the proper angle to match the lug nut seat angle.

Dealers recommending this may also be making a customer trust stunt to gain trust in them being cautious, or had mechanics run them down with an air gun and realized the air was low and they were not being tightened properly. That’s the best way to get them under or over torqued.

The wackiest customer I ever had looked at the wheel center emblems after rotating tires and told me I put them on wrong. She insisted all the emblems were at the same position as the wheels turned when she brought it in. Now some were straight, others were sideways, others were upside down! I explained as soon as you go around the first turn they will not be the same since one side will turn faster or slower than the other. Nope, had to bring it back on the lift, spin each wheel to make the emblems all the same before lowering it. Had her drive it out too.

Had another told me the front end alignment was off since it wasn’t going straight up the road anymore. Test drove it fine. She got into the car with me and showed me the hood ornament was crooked and she couldn’t get the car to go straight with it like that. I told her it was a car to drive it, not a gun that you point it!

Here’s a blast from the past before it was ACE;
F4C896B7-6800-485E-BB73-69369DF3BA11.jpeg


DD0FAD06-37D9-4373-850A-4249BB99053F.jpeg Never sewn on, maybe antiques now?
 

tlc1976

Minister of Fire
Oct 7, 2012
1,049
Northwest Lower Michigan
I always figured the retorque after 50-100 miles was for finalizing of the seating surfaces. Whether the nut taper isn’t perfect, a little corrosion on the wheel or rotor or both, etc. Drive it for awhile and let the surfaces seat, retorque, and you’re good to go.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
Well, every single ASE certified community college program is teaching to use torque sticks and air guns. In fact dealerships are also using torque sticks and air guns, and they help fund the various ASE programs across the country. We only used torque wrenches for engine rebuilding, and then we used dial indicator wrenches, not the click type. I get that all of you have horror stories about wheels falling off and stuff like that, but the reality is wheels falling off due to using torque sticks are rare. In fact you tend to find the opposite problem is true, hence the thread.
 
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Don2222

Minister of Fire
Feb 1, 2010
8,898
Salem NH
Don't be this guy

It was determined that guy’s team bought lug nuts that were the wrong threads for the car, so it cannot be blamed on improper torquing. :)
 
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PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,271
MA
Friend was at a high-end dealership right out of college 20 years ago. Had a Rolls as a trade-in from some Patriots DB. Bought it for a few months until his car came in.

Wheel center caps with RR stay in orientation to read even with wheel rotation. Never did a search on that.

HUGE depreciation in a few months, by the way.
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
7,238
NE Ohio
Well, every single ASE certified community college program is teaching to use torque sticks and air guns. In fact dealerships are also using torque sticks and air guns, and they help fund the various ASE programs across the country. We only used torque wrenches for engine rebuilding, and then we used dial indicator wrenches, not the click type. I get that all of you have horror stories about wheels falling off and stuff like that, but the reality is wheels falling off due to using torque sticks are rare. In fact you tend to find the opposite problem is true, hence the thread.
ASE certs kinda lost their luster to me after I worked with a guy that had a whole pile of ASE certs...he was probably the biggest hack I've ever personally known, at least that was supposedly properly trained. (I still question if he somehow faked his certs)
Just because some schools and dealerships are teaching the use of these things, don't make it "best practice"...if they are so great then they'd use them for engine building too. When OEM starts to suggest/approve lug nuts being installed this way, then I might, maybe, reconsider my position...I mean heck, you have what, 4/5 nuts ( or maybe 6/7/8 on pickups) that basically maintaining your ability to steer n stop, so why not just take an extra minute and give yourself the best chance of not suddenly losing that ability...not to mention not boogering up your studs nuts, wheels, rotors, etc.

Well, if the use of torque sticks is really as common as you say, then in my mind that just reinforces my habit of checking them myself when I get a vehicle back after a shop has had the wheels off. (unless its a shop that I know for a fact uses a torque wrench...and even then I'll still do the 50-100 mile retorque personally)
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,541
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I never knew a torque stick was a thing until reading this thread. All shops around here torque with a click style wrench, many shops, like I do at home, run the nuts on at the lowest setting on an impact (50 ish ftlbs) and then torque by hand.

We have had issues with our 550's and 5500's loosening rear duals at work, but I think that's caused by dirt in between the rims, and not checking torque after reinstalling the wheel. We had one truck that was breaking wheel studs often, couldn't find the cause, until I caught the driver checking the nuts with his breaker bar on a Monday morning, like he said he did every Monday. Yarding with all your might on a 30" breaker bar generates way more than the 165ftlbs that nut was designed for. Sometimes the issue is the loose nut behind the steering wheel....
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
I didn't say torque sticks were best practice, I said they are industry standard. I get that independent shops do whatever they want, but I'm talking about the big dealer service centers where the majority of people get their cars serviced. I personally use a torque wrench on my own stuff, but every single automotive tech program out there is teaching torque sticks. Now to say "why not use torque sticks for engines then" is obviously just full of snark. Getting exact torque spec on a wheel stud isn't as important as a head stud, and you know it. The torque sticks all err on the side of too tight rather than not tight enough, and that's not going to work on something that requires a precise torque spec. Every car you see rolling out of a dealership service center is getting the wheels put on with torque sticks, because that's what MFG's and therefore educators are doing.

Now there are some very expensive air tools out there that can be set to a specific torque. Central wheel nuts were mentioned earlier, and I posted about the wheel guns used by F1 teams. They aren't checking the central lock nut with a torque stick or measuring wrench. They just slam that nut on with the air gun and send the car out. Clearly getting the most exact torque spec isn't 100% important for holding the wheels on as long as you are tight enough.


If I'm using a torque wrench on my wheels, I'm always keeping it a little higher than indicated, because I'd rather have a bit too much torque on wheel studs than not enough. I also don't like using any compound on the threads, because lubrication changes torque specs. If you get corrosion, get new nuts/studs or clean the surfaces.
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,563
Philadelphia
Wow... lively thread. I'm with SpaceBus, I see nearly every dealership around here using torque sticks as standard, when rotating tires. They're not "dead on balls accurate" (it's an industry term), but in hand-checking my own after each rotation at the dealership, I find they're reasonably close.



One thing folks here seem to be ignoring, in all their boasting about using a torque wrench, is how horribly inaccurate 90% of them are. Unless you've had yours re-calibrated by a proper NIST or ISO traceable service in the last few months (let alone years or decades, like most DIY'ers), it's highly probably your torque wrench is off by more than the variable result of any torque stick. Sorry, it's the truth.

In having a lot of high-horsepower recreational vehicles, one with tires as large as 40" x 17", I have learned that having equal torque on all studs of a wheel is more important than the actual value. Whether it be 80 or 100 ft-lb, I've never had any issue with them all holding tight, when set equally. I've also experienced them coming loose, when one or a few are tighter than the rest, not exactly a huge surprise.

I won't get my panties in a bunch when I see the mechanic using a torque stick on even my most expensive wheels. It's about the best you can hope for in a shop where time is money. Yes, I re-torque them a few days after pickup, as much out of following the rule to re-check after 100 miles, as any distrust in the original mechanic.
 

PaulOinMA

Minister of Fire
Oct 20, 2018
1,271
MA
... on even my most expensive wheels ...

Made me think of a couple of discussions in a private group on a car web site I'm on.

One guy was lamenting that he was now out of work, and he didn't know how he was going to make ends meet.

Another guy right after that complained that his Porsche was back from service and there were some minor scratches in the wells for the wheel lugs.

We were giving the second guy a hard time about his first world problems. :)
 
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Ashful

Minister of Fire
Mar 7, 2012
16,563
Philadelphia
Well, if it makes you feel better, I've been out of work since mid-January. But it's by my own choice, trying something new after 35 years of continuous employment. I guess I'm part of the Great Resignation, or whatever they're calling 2022.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,924
Downeast Maine
I've been trying to work since I got medically retired, but finally gave up and am just enjoying not working.
 
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